Wednesday, August 15, 2012

August Secret Agent #29

TITLE: Edgefield
GENRE: Mystery

March, 1955

"Can’t you hurry up? Jeezus ain’t going to wait forever!” A lanky man with piercing, charcoal eyes and a chiseled jaw spat out the words as if fired from an automatic pistol.

The short, pudgy man stuck out his lower lip. “Jesus can just wait till I finish my hamburger. Ain’t had nothin’ to eat all day.” He scuffed the toe of his boot against a hollow lamp pole.

In a park near the river, a naked light bulb haloed two figures in the night chill. With his leather bomber jacket zipped tight, the taller man paced back and forth with choppy steps. The other fellow plopped on a bench and crossed his chubby legs beneath a threadbare, trench coat. He clutched a half-eaten Tastee burger like it was his last meal, his free hand hovering beneath his mouth to capture escaping crumbs. With each bite his lips smacked.

After slurping the last morsel, he let the wrapper fall and sucked salt and grease from his fingertips. “Well, guess I’m ready. Where do I find this Jesus guy?”

The tall man’s voice changed to a purr. “On the other side of the river.” He waved his hand like a wand toward the far side of the Willamette.

“I don’t see nothin’.” The short man, craning his neck, squinted into the darkness.

The thin man strode toward the river, flashed a feral grin, and beckoned. “First, my friend, you gotta get closer to the railing.”


  1. This is great. There is a lot to like here - the set up with the two men and the underscoring of their differences, which might be comical, but isn't. I like the use of the word 'fellow', which sounds right to the time and the specificity of Tastee burger. I especially like the detail of the chubby guy eating with his hand under his chin - it's both highly visual and suggestive of many things about this man.

    If I were to have a criticism, it's only that the first sentence is actually the weakest because 'piercing, charcoal eyes and chiseled jaw' are somewhat cliche descriptions and you clearly know how to write more cleverly than that. Good luck! I'm rooting for this one.

  2. Is someone watching them? It didn't feel like I was anchored in anyone's POV in this scene, like I was just a spectator watching. Great writing, but the omniscient POV kind of took me out of the scene.

  3. Good writing and nice set up for a mystery. I like to be set in the scene before people start talking, but that's a personal preference. The writing and descriptions are still good.

  4. This story intrigues me from the first sentence. The differences between the nameless characters instills a sense of foreboding. The images bring life to the scene. I could see everything.

    I'm afraid the hamburger has brought the chubby character to a bad end.

    The question: Is this a prologue? It sounds like it. If it is, it sucks in the reader. I loved it.

  5. After the first sentence, I thought he was rushing him to church. Then it twisted in a very interesting way.

    The description of the chubby man is very good, and the lanky man remains mysterious. I'm not sure, which character will end up being the MC.

    I would like to be able to turn the page and read on.

  6. That was fun! I like the tone and the voice. I'd like to be anchored in a pov from the beginning, but it didn't pull me out of your story. Good luck!

  7. Great opening.

    You've set up atmosphere and I'm guessing this is about a serial killer who targets those down on their luck. I feel anxious for chubby guy.

    I agree with the previous poster who commeneted the desciption in the first para was cliche'd, bit it was not enough to put me off.

    Another point, as a trench coat is a noun, there is no need for a comma following threadbare.

    Otherwise, good job. I'd read on.

  8. I was confused by the "Jeezus" reference. I've seen it spelled that way when a character swears, but it's not written like a curse. And that the second guy has never heard of Jesus is a bit odd. Not everyone is Christian, but even my atheist friends know who Jesus is. There wasn't enough here to pull me in or creep me out and make me want to read more.

  9. I like this - good writing, and I'm assuming the name Jesus is used slyly - the short guy thinks it's a guy and the tall guy thinks it is really Jesus :-)

    I'd keep reading!

  10. I thought the Jeezus in the first mention of Jesus was to distinguish it from the Spanish Jesus and also to accentuate the character's impatience. I really like the description and set up. I thought the opening dialog worked because it set the scene and referred to a situation that everyone is familiar with - waiting for someone else to finish doing something. I like the POV -- it's detached so I don't know who to be sympathetic to, and that enhances the mystery -- just telling the story. Great beginning.

  11. A great set up! Moving to the railing.. I want to yell - NO!

    With each bite his lips smacked. - you don't need that sentence.

    I want more! Good luck!

  12. Love the dialogue and interaction! Very compelling - I definitely want to read on.

    I really want to know who the narrator is, too. Someone who is watching both men, close enough to hear chewing, not knowing their thoughts, but knowing the night is chilly.

    By the end of this passage, I'm ready to know the name of at least one of the two men - even just a goofy nickname he's called by his friend. Then you wouldn't have to switch between 'the tall man' / 'the short man' / 'the thin man' - which almost seems like three different people (though I know it's not). If one has called the other something, then you could use the nickname in place of "the thin man". Or you could just replace it with "His accomplice / his companion" or something else generic.

    Also recommend "The short man craned his neck and squinted into the darkness." Though then I wonder how either short man or narrator can see thin-man's grin, once he's strode through this darkness toward the river & (probably) out of the circle of light.

    Really great language & descriptions! I'm also suitably intrigued by the mid 1950's setting.

  13. I'm more a fan of the last line than the bulk of the piece. The 1955 tag intrigued me, so I'm curious to see how this progresses. I found I wanted a POV to anchor me and that the sample was overly descriptive--charcoal eyes, chisled jaw, spat/fired, slurped, smacked, etc. It's a case of trying too hard I think. Too, I'mn not really sure what's going on...I can see it coming with the thin man beckoning the other to the railing, but the lead up is confusing. However, I like to point out that I like how you are layering this with meaning---your reference to Jesus and then the reference to last meal, nicely done.

  14. I enjoy the setting -- 1955 makes me think of Cold War espionage and since it's a mystery that's kind of what I had in my head when reading this passage.

    Two things bothered me, though. First the omniscient POV. Some people like that, but I always struggle with connecting to characters when I'm not sure who to follow. The other thing that distracted me while reading was so much description. Everything in this passage seems to have one or more adjectives tacked onto it and you might want to cut back a little.

    Other than that, I'm very interested to see where this story goes and if this is a prologue or not.